You’ll read a lot of top 10 lists during this World Cup, but how about a top 64?
the athlete will rate each game in the competition and update this piece every day. With eight games, there’s not a lot of choice, but it won’t be long before that’s 12, 16, 20… you get the idea.
Think of it as a live ranking of games. After each game day, new games are added and weighed against the previous ones. As games accumulate, the leaderboards change.
A game that is at the top after matchday 3 can be number 5 on matchday 6. On the other hand, a game that is in last place on Matchday 1 can leave the relegation zone at the end of the group stage.
The main thing is to have fun.
Here we go…
Group C, Argentina 1 Saudi Arabia 2
One of the biggest surprises in World Cup history? Probably.
One of the greatest games in Saudi Arabian history? Definitive.
Argentina found it difficult to cope with their opponents’ high line and defensive organization before Saudi Arabia’s intensity in the second half secured them a famous win.
What did their coach Herve Renard say to the Saudi players at half-time?
“Things that made us eat the grass,” explained midfielder Abdulellah Al-Malki afterwards.
Group D, Australia 1 France 4
Top football is food for the soul.
With the late switch to 4-2-3-1 for this tournament, France endured a tough first 25 minutes. After that, her ball possession game clicked.
They tried to find Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele in one-on-one situations or use winger combinations to unlock Australia. France had ample opportunities across wide areas and found it easy to carve out chances in the last third.
And a quick thank you to Aurelien Tchouameni. The base of the French midfield that will support whatever they do going forward.
Group B, USMNT 1 Wales 1
At half-time there seemed to be only one winner as the USMNT had dominated and took a deserved lead thanks to Tim Weah’s goal.
They had clear ideas on the ball and their work off the ball, with captain Tyler Adams at the heart, was just as impressive, but Wales manager Rob Page’s decision to use striker Kieffer Moore from the bench changed things. He gave Wales an attacking exit to avoid the pressing and put Wales back in the game.
Gareth Bale’s penalty equalized and Wales earned the draw.
Group B, England 6 Iran 2
Did the quality of the opponent play a role? Yes, but that was a good showing from England in possession. Starting with Jude Bellingham and Mason Mount in a 4-3-3, better passing combinations in the wide areas and off-the-ball movement within the Iranian defensive block enabled it. They represented good value for the 3-0 lead at half-time.
In the second half, Bellingham’s distribution from deep position then showed he can be used differently by Gareth Southgate.
When it comes to set pieces, England are still among the top teams in the world.
Group D, Denmark 0 Tunisia 0
A roaring Tunisian crowd upped the ante in that goalless draw and let’s face it, it was needed.
The North African side were clearly the better side in the first half as they shot balls behind the Danish defense and Aissa Laidouni dominated midfield.
Before switching to 4-3-3, Denmark’s lack of threats from open play was alarming. Her corners were the only good thing for her.
Group A, Qatar 0 Ecuador 2
Without Ecuador, this game would have been bottom of the table. On day one, Jhegson Mendez dominated the midfield battle alongside Moises Caicedo and helped Ecuador build.
Former West Ham United and Everton striker Enner Valencia scored twice while Angelo Preciado excelled at right-back.
The hosts never posed a threat at any set piece, unlike Ecuador – one of their greatest strengths.
Group A, Senegal 0 Netherlands 2
If you missed this game, well done.
The Senegalese midfield trio of Idrissa Gueye, Nampalys Mendy and Cheikhou Kouyate made life difficult for Louis van Gaal’s side, as did his decision to choose Vincent Janssen as his first striker.
Late goals from Cody Gakpo and Davy Klaassen eased the boredom. The announced nine-minute stoppage time should have been greeted with sighs.
Group C, Mexico 0 Poland 0
Apart from Guillermo Ochoa’s penalty save against Robert Lewandowski, this game had very little to offer.
If you took Hirving Lozano out I wouldn’t watch it again even if you paid me.
Mexico tried to move things far, but that’s about it. And where was Poland’s possession game? Did they leave it in Warsaw?
(Design: John Bradford for The Athletic. Photos: Getty Images)